Cheers to cake!

I love working with fruits and flowers all year round but there’s something about summer that makes me want to make and bake with them all the more. My birthday seems so far back now (although it was only in May) but I’m still thinking about the beautifully rustic Pimms-inspired sandwich cake I made for my party. Yes, I still have a party, even at my age! Although at my age the cake is allowed to include my favourite tipple…

I wanted a summery cake, something that summed up British summertime, so I reached for the Pimm’s. Now I have to admit that I was originally thinking of the original – Pimm’s No 1 – but in my haste I hadn’t realised that I’d run out of this at home. However, what I did have was Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower, which is super summery and just delicious! And recently I’ve been doing a lot of baking with blackberries and, in particular, elderflower, and it seemed perfect to combine these two delicious flavours. And the final magic ingredient, which I love to add to so many of my recipes, alcohol, made this the perfect summer birthday cake!

Ingredients

12oz butter

120z sugar

6 eggs

12 oz self-raising flour

One punnet of blackberries (seven put aside for decoration)

For the buttercream:

A generous knob of butter

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

For the drizzle:

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

 

Method

Cream the butter (I always find this easiest if the butter is at room temperature when you begin) and then add the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time. Then add the blackberries to the mix before sifting in the flour. Share the mix equally across two 8” cake tins (I use the ones with the removable bottoms). Bake the cake for around 40 minutes or until golden. As always, I’d suggest you do the skewer test to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through.

To make the buttercream icing cream the knob of butter, adding icing sugar a spoon at a time. Add a dash of Pimm’s. Keep adding and mixing until you have a beautiful purple buttercream. Spoon the buttercream onto the bottom cake and sandwich the top half on it. I usually squish it down a bit; don’t worry if it oozes out a bit, I always think it adds to the homemade look and makes it appear all the more tempting!

To make the drizzle mix a few large spoonfuls of icing sugar and a capful or two of the Pimm’s and mix until you have a nice drizzle. Pour this over the whole cake, letting it dribble down the edges. Finish the cake with a small handful of blackberries in the centre of the cake. I also dusted the cake with some dried elderflower to finish it off. Now, do you enjoy this with a pot of tea or with a refreshing glass of Pimm’s? Cheers!

Advertisements

Fairytale fantastic

And so it happened – last month I turned… well, let’s just say I had a ‘significant birthday’. And as per any significant birthday I thought I’d see it in with a stylish midlife crisis!

Bunny and fairy queen in the enchanted forest

Being an eternal child, Fairy tale fantastic seemed like the perfect theme. A few months ago I went to the bluebell woods where Palmer Photography London had photographed me and turned me into a fairy. I used this as inspiration for the whole party – setting up a Fairy tale Fantastic room with floral garlands, a lit-up cherry tree with life-like birds, an enchanted forest photo booth with fairy wings, flower crowns and rabbit ears, and a buffet that was fit for a midsummer night’s dream.

I’d spent the previous day making olive and parmesan dragonflies and butterflies – these proved to be so delicious that not all of them made it to the party! Continuing the enchanted forest theme I made bunny shape brie and red onion tarts, apple and goats cheese scones, love-heart marshmallow kebabs with brownies and strawberries, and cupcakes – both gluten-free – rose and pistachio (using real rose petals, of course) and chocolate and Bailey’s cupcakes with magic star dust. The centrepiece cake, which was fit for a fairy princess, was one of my two-tiered cakes (Pimms and gin & tonic) decorated with natural flowers.

I really love working with a theme, it brings so many opportunities to be creative and have fun with food, decoration and the dress code. The only thing that was missing was Prince Charming… for now!

A special cake for a special friend; chocolate and lavender cake

Me, with Helen, aged 18

Helen and I have been friends since our first year of secondary school. We first met when, after our last class of our first day (music), I asked her if she was getting the bus home. She was, and being bus buddies, it was a question that cemented our friendship. Twenty-eight years later and we’re still good friends and I am proud Godmother to her beautiful nine-year-old daughter.

This year Helen reached a landmark age and I was devastated that I couldn’t go to the surprise birthday dinner her husband had lovingly organised (I was off at the O2 dancing to all things country!). However, there was one thing I could do for her – make her a beautiful birthday cake to remember.

Chocolate and lavender cake

As you may know by now, I love to work with fruits and flowers and my initial plan had been to make Helen my delicious pistachio and rose cake (that’s a recipe I fully intend to share one of these days!). But I’m afraid that foolish me didn’t check the cupboard for rose water and so I had to improvise (sorry Helen!). For me, it’s when I have to improvise that I come up with my finest recipes. I had lavender but wanted to do something a bit more indulgent for Helen’s special birthday, especially as I wasn’t going to be there. So I decided to put lavender with rich chocolate. And thankfully it worked a treat! I’ve since made the cake a couple of times in the shop and at home and the noises that come from people when they taste it – well, what can I say? Simply tastetastic!

Happy birthday Helen, here’s to another 28 years of friendship and more x

 

Chocolate and lavender cake

Ingredients

12oz butter

120z sugar

6 eggs

9oz self-raising flour

3oz cocoa powder

100g dark chocolate, chopped

For the icing

3oz butter

1lb icing sugar

100ml milk

Lavender essence

Culinary lavender for decoration

Method

Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and stir in the chopped chocolate. Transfer into two 8” tins and bake in the oven (I bake mine at 150 for 30 minutes) until they pass the skewer test.

For the icing, cream the butter and add the icing sugar a bit at a time. Add the milk, again, a bit at a time until you get the consistency you want. Mix in the lavender essence – I use six drops but it’s personal taste, so add two drops at a time until you’re happy with the flavour.

Once the cakes are cooked and cooled off, sandwich together with the lavender icing and ice the top of the cake. Decorate with the dried lavender to make it look as pretty as it is tasty!